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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

MARXIST    HISTORY

and we dismiss him with facile condemnation because
we imagine that the universe in which he lived was
freer than it really was—indeed, we constantly imagine
that the range of options open to a statesman at a given
moment is greater than in reality turns out to be the
case. Because of all this, we often exaggerate the
importance in the purely historical realm of what too
easily appears to be thorough goodness or thorough
badness in single human beings; we over-dramatise
our history; we attribute too little to the historical
process.

And just as we impute too much to individuals in our
analysis of historical change, so we tend to attribute too
much to ideas as though ideas were independent powers
in history, existing outside men. People have pretended
to account for the decline of tribal society by simply
saying that there was a decline of the tribal idea or there
was a diminution of the sense of kinship. I have seen
the decay of the feudal system attributed in a similar
way to the decline of what is called the feudal idea.
Some historians have believed in the policy of using
ideas to explain history, as though ideas were not in
some sense the result of history before they could start
being the cause of anything. There would be more
point in adopting the reverse attitude and saying that
we bring all the history that we know to help to explain
ideas and changes in ideas. Those who attribute so
much to personalities and ideas without remembering
how greatly these are themselves the product of history
are putting the whole story into the wrong universe,
into an intellectualist's paradise, an academic Utopia—

73